Feature Message

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost — October 2, 2022

What does the family of faith do after it has eaten together at the table where Christ stands as host?

Pentecost 17C
2 Timothy 1:1-14

Each year on World Communion Sunday, Flint River Presbytery gathers at four different church sites throughout our bounds to pack tens of thousands of meals. We partner with Rise Against Hunger, purchasing the food and providing the labor to pack bags of simple yet nutritious meals. Forsyth Presbyterian Church, where I serve as pastor, has hosted this event several times over the last nine years. In our fellowship hall, the generations joyfully gather to measure, pour, weigh and seal each bag, knowing that each bag will feed six people who would have otherwise gone hungry. Our teenagers and adults laugh and dance together to upbeat pop music from all the decades as they get into the rhythm of pouring into each bag the rice, soy protein and dried veggies. Our little ones run back and forth from station to station, changing empty baskets for full ones. Our elders sit while they carefully weigh and seal each bag.

As I watch the young father with his baby resting in a sling on his chest, the grandmother guiding her grandchildren’s small hands with her now unsteady ones, the couple whose child has now moved to college, and the overworked mother of teenage boys, all smiling, all joyful, all acting out their faith together, I easily imagine Lois, Eunice, Timothy and Paul laboring with us. Those folks lived their faith through suffering and social shame, through tears and joy. They acted as heralds, apostles and teachers of the gospel, each passing on within the family of faith the power, love and self-discipline granted them by the Holy Spirit.

On World Communion Sunday, we celebrate the sacrament, which Christ instituted to bind us together. We celebrate it across the globe and across denominations. We celebrate it across traditions and theologies. We celebrate it, tasting the power and love of God, broken in bread, poured out in the cup. We celebrate it, whether we are grieving or rejoicing, struggling or successful, in prosperity or in penury. We celebrate the sacrament as the family of God.

In 2 Timothy, the epistle writer notes that God’s family includes both blood relations and chosen family. The author loves Timothy as a son and also recognizes the impact his mother and grandmother have had on his faith. At the table, we live out our calling to participate in the family of God. We may come as a family or a married couple, or as a person grieving or divorced. We may come with friends. We may come alone. But once we get to the table, we are bound together, and we go forth as the family of God. Christ binds us through the saving grace which existed before the ages began, and which is fully revealed in our Savior.

But what next? What does the family of faith do after it has eaten together at the table where Christ stands as host?

In Flint River Presbytery, we pack meals. We bring the gospel to college campuses, caring for students and bringing them to a shared table through a spirit of power and love. At Forsyth Presbyterian Church the grandmothers (not necessarily in blood but all in choice) kindle the faith of their grandchildren in the family of God.

We do this because we know faith is taught and caught. We bear witness to the faith of the previous generations, and our own, by proclaiming it and living it.

Reflection questions:

  1. Who are the parents and grandparents, by blood or by choice, who taught you faith? In what ways did you catch faith from them?
  2. How is the spirit of power, love and self-discipline lived out in your faith community?
  3. What gifts from God need to be rekindled within you? Within your faith community?

MARILYN MCKELVEY TUCKER-MAREK

Marilyn McKelvey Tucker-Marek is the pastor of Forsyth Presbyterian Church in Forsyth, Georgia, and pastor of the UKirk campus ministry at the Mercer University campus in Macon, Georgia, in the Flint River Presbytery.